“Find your passion, then make it happen.” –Flashdance
Every once in a while, I’m reminded why passion for what you’re doing is not only preferable, but critical.
If you doubt it, just put yourself in the position of doing something you hate and see how sweet your disposition is, how your health holds up, and monitor your mood. When the headaches starts, tell whomever you’re giving one to, to take two aspirin and have them tell you to find your passion.
Authors often ask me questions. I’ve been open to that for years, so it’s natural for them and me, and, while I surely don’t know it all, I’m happy to answer what I can.
Anyway, this author of 12 books needs to talk. She has decided that she doesn’t want to write anymore. She used to enjoy writing, and she sells consistently, but it’s work now. And she’s talking through her situation with me to determine whether or not she should continue to write.
The first thought that comes to my mind is: If you have to ask, you shouldn’t be doing it. Whatever it is–but especially if it’s something as creative and demanding as writing. I’ve learned though that you can’t just say these things. Well, you can, but it doesn’t work for the person on the receiving end. Major decisions require thought, and weighing out pros and cons. They require options, alternatives, consideration.
Writing demands such sacrifice and commitment that to walk away without examining whether or not you should closely is akin to blasphemy. The art requires more respect. The craft has earned more respect. And so the process of sifting begins.
“I never get time off,” she says. “I work seven days a week. I’ve been trying to get to the mall, which is only 20 minutes away, for 2 weeks. If I do take a few hours off, then I feel guilty.”
“Working for oneself is hard,” I said. “There are always important things to be done.” I know there’s a delicate balance between having the discipline to work for yourself and actually working when it’s so easy to goof off, and working yourself to death. Because I promise you, the day you die–regardless of what day it is–if you work for yourself, there will be items outstanding on your TO-DO list. But I don’t say this. Have to respect the process. “Would a schedule help?” I ask. “Giving yourself set work hours and set time off?”
“Doesn’t work,” she said. “When I have things to do, I just can’t think about anything but doing them. So even if it’s off-time, I’m not enjoying it.” This, too, is a challenge, but most who successfully work for themselves, especially at home, sooner or later say, “Spit upon it, I’m doing xyz today,” and then they do, and they enjoy it. But I wasn’t hearing that. “Mmm, sounds as if you resent that.”
“You bet I do,” she said. “I’m working too hard for too little, and I’m sick of it.”
These too are familiar words for many in the creative arts. But was it permanent sentiment or temporary frustration?
When you’re writing and things are swimming along, you can be broke and very content writing. When you’re making great money and things are not swimming along, you can be financially set and miserable writing. But both are temporary and a direct reflection of how the writing is going. So it’s important to be skeptical about this resentment. “That can take the fun right out of the work,” I say.
“Fun?” She guffaws. “Writing hasn’t been fun for a long time. I think since the minute I sold the first book.”
Now this, I think, is a very telling statement. And frankly, I wondered how the hell she’d had the stamina to write 12 of these rascals without the fun factor being present. I can’t imagine doing that. I can’t imagine spending an hour seeking just the right word, or going over a book checking for typos or rhythm or pacing for the 10th or 20th time. How do you do stomach doing that without the fun factor? How?
But I don’t ask, because this isn’t about me. It’s about her and her writing, and I say, “It must be hell to write and it not be fun.”
Her eyes fill with tears and her jaw quivers. “It’s worse than hard labor.”
For women, few things are as rough as hard labor, so this is extremely serious stuff. But women endure hard labor for the reward: the baby. Writers endure the process for writing for the same reason: the book. But “worse than” hard labor? There is no worse than hard labor, especially when there is no reward. Except maybe hell, and I’d have to see it to believe it. “I’m so sorry,” I said.
She stilled and got a strange look on her face. “Oh, damn. I’ve already decided, haven’t I?”
Sure sounded that way to me. I nodded. “So what’s next for you, now that you’re an ex-writer?” I said it, but I know writers, and they can’t quit. They just quit writing to sell. But they always write.
“I’m not sure.”
I expected her to be afraid of that–people generally prefer the demon they know to any other demon. But she didn’t look afraid. She looked kind of resigned. “What the hell do I do now?”
Ah, finally, the process had come full circle and I could say now what I knew needed to be said at the very beginning. “Find your passion.”
“Your passion,” I said. “All those complaints are likely still going to be there, regardless of what career you pursue. If not those, then other ones will replace them. Everything has challenges and you’ll always have trials. The difference is if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you just don’t mind them quite as much. Oh, things will scrape your nerves now and then, but you heal. And most importantly, you’re having fun. You know what they say, life is the journey, not the destination. I mean, think about it. When you arrive at your lifelong destination, it’s because you’re dead.”
“My passion.” She tilted her head to one side, stared off into space for a long minute, and then gave me a slow smile. “I’ve always loved clothes. I think I could be passionate about selling clothes.”
“There you are then.”
I watched her leave my home, and returned to my desk. My passion, a book called BULLETPROOF PRINCESS, was waiting, and I was eager to return to it.
Find your passion, and you don’t have to ask if you should be doing it. You won’t be able to imagine your life not doing it. Saves a lot of things, including your loved ones aspirins.
“Trust is earned, one book at a time.”
–Vicki Hinze http://vickihinze.com
Note: I edit books and professional correspondence. But I do NOT edit email or this blog. This is chat time for me, so if the grammar is goofed or a word’s spelled wrong, please just breeze on past it. I’d appreciate it–and salute you with my coffee cup. 🙂
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Copyright 2005. Vicki Hinze
Vicki Hinze is a multi-published author, who has a free library of her articles on writing–the craft, business and life–at http://www.vickihinze.com.